Beyond Good & Evil
One of the most important ingredients of a superb video game is good characters. Think back to all the classics you have played over the years; one thing they most likely have in common is a strong cast, headlined by an even stronger main character. If you are going to dedicate multiple hours playing one game, the characters better be strong, right?
But it takes a lot more for a video game to be memorable than just interesting character choices alone. It is the relationships between these characters that transform a simple video game into a deep, emotionally fulfilling experience.
A character could be one of the greatest designed characters of all time, but place him or her in a world with nothing to do but run and jump and that character becomes nothing more than a pretty computer-generated image, possessing no connection whatsoever with the player.
In this edition of The Memory Card, one of the greatest video game moments in recent memory is honored primarily for its realistic and almost cinematic portrayal of its in-game characters. Let’s enter the world of one of the most underappreciated and, frankly, greatest games to come out in the last decade, Beyond Good & Evil.
The protagonist of Beyond Good & Evil is a young woman by the name of Jade. Orphaned at a very young age, Jade is raised on the far-off world of Hillys, unsure of where she originally came from or even who her birth parents were.
The world of Hillys (a planet inhabited by humans and anthropomorphic animals) is under constant attack by an evil race of alien creatures called the DomZ. Being the awesome and unconventionally hot woman she is, Jade dedicates her whole life running an orphanage filled with children whose parents were captured and/or killed by the invading aliens.
The game starts off with an immediate bang, as Jade has to fend off a DomZ attack on her peaceful orphanage. After almost being captured herself, Jade is saved at the last minute by her “Uncle” Pey’j, a half pig/half human that has raised Jade like a daughter since she was a baby.
In addition to running the orphanage with Pey’j, Jade earns money by working as a photographer for the government of Hillys, mostly taking on simple tasks such as taking pictures of local wildlife.
Through some extraordinary circumstances, Jade and Pey’j join a rebel group that call themselves the IRIS network and are hired to collect photographic evidence that will prove the Hillyan government is working together with the DomZ.
A few semi-complicated (but beautifully told) storylines later, Jade and Pey’j are told by IRIS they have to visit three locations around Hillys to take pictures of important DomZ activities to help unveil a deeply-seeded conspiracy.
This important mission eventually leads the charming pair to their first location, an abandoned factory, where some mysterious happenings are noticeably going on. Besides the many traces of DomZ presence, Jade and Pey’j also discover that the government’s leading military troop, the Alpha Section, is up to no good, harvesting and working together with the supposedly enemy race.
As Jade and Pey’j make their way through the very Zelda dungeon-like factory, they have to work together in creative ways to continue on. As all this is happening, there are numerous cutscenes and dialogue clips that help amplify the already heart-warming father-daughter relationship that the two have together. Honestly, the minute you even hear Pey’j’s gruff voice and listen to how wonderfully he treats Jade, you instantly fall in love with the endearing character.
At one point in the factory, Pey’j gives Jade an “M-Disk,” which, up to this point in the game, was used for downloading mission data and providing key game information. Assuming it is just that (with Pey’j asking her to watch it later), Jade tucks it away in her bag as the two continue on.
The next Memory Card moment occurs as Jade and Pey’j temporarily separate. Jade, wanting to find a way around a supposedly insurmountable obstacle, heads down a ventilation shaft while Pey’j waits behind, sweetly assuring her that everything will be fine. Jade looks back at her brave “uncle” and quickly rounds a corner, Pey’j slipping out of her view.
After traveling to the end of the shaft, Jade discovers that the path leads to a dead-end. Frustrated, she heads back to join back up with Pey’j.
As she is heading back to meet him, Jade hears a scream and immediately recognizes who it is coming from.
At this time, the camera cuts back to Pey’j, who is being surrounded by a band of Alpha Section soldiers. Before even having time to react, the soldiers start to beat Pey’j with their weapons until he crumbles almost lifeless on the floor.
During all of this chaos, the entire scene shifts into slow-motion, beautiful orchestral music playing in the background, as Jade runs with all her might to reach her tortured “uncle” in time.
As Jade leaps around the final corner she sees Pey’j’s body being dragged off by the soldiers. Right before reaching him, a huge metal door slams down in front of her, blocking her from reaching (and stopping) the ruthless kidnappers.
Jade, devastated that the only father figure in her life is gone (and maybe even dead), leans on the solid door, trying her best to hold back tears.
Reacting quickly and with determination building inside of her, Jade figures out a way to open the door and runs ahead, no other thoughts in her mind except to save her beloved Pey’j.
As Jade runs into the next room, she sees a computer that takes and displays the information on M-Disks. And it is here where this moment seals itself as being one of the most memorable and special in video game history.
Jade takes out the M-Disk that was given to her by Pey’j and places it in the computer, hoping that maybe something on it will help her in her quest.
Instead of a mission of any kind, however, Jade is surprised to hear Pey’j’s voice emitting from the computer. Immediately, Pey’j begins to say how proud he is of Jade and how he loves her like a daughter. The message was obviously recorded by Pey’j before the mission so Jade could listen to it if something ever happened to him.
You can watch the devastating sequence unfold here (and it may actually behoove you to watch the entire clip – it includes some great gameplay sections and some clever banter between Jade and Pey’j):
Beyond Good & Evil sold very poorly, which is a huge shame since it is, hands down, one of the best action/adventure games ever made. This lack of success hurts even more once you witness moments like the scene where Pey’j is captured, as it is so beautifully told and heartbreakingly realized. It makes me sad that more people did not get a chance to experience it.
One thing that Beyond Good & Evil revolutionized was its portrayal of family which, up to that point in time, had never really been seen in a video game. Most main characters in the past never had any family and, if they did, they were shoved to the background and were forced to do such menial things like wander aimlessly around the main character’s house or providing the occasional hint. Pey’j is not only a fully realized character, he actually journeys with you on your quest (contributing in fighting and puzzle-solving just as much as Jade herself).
This was one of the first games ever to provide its main character with an elaborate back story and create a surrounding world that included creatures that genuinely cared about her. You really feel, when starting this game, that Jade has lived on this world for years, establishing a strong bond with the children she watches over and, especially, with her “Uncle” Pey’j. Even a completely character-driven series like Final Fantasy, to me, never displayed the ability to create the same kind of personal player/in-game character relationships (maybe because the epic scope of Final Fantasy games is always too big to feel as quaint). In fact, I am not sure if any game to this day has created a more perfect organic world for its characters to live in.
Although I love the entire game, the specific moment when Pey’j was kidnapped really got me, and I still can’t get it out of my head all these years later (holding … back … tears).
As mentioned earlier, the brilliant direction and stunning music help immensely, but what really brings the moment home is how well the game allows you to fall in love with Pey’j, which in turn makes you genuinely feel horrible once Jade loses him. It is their in-game relationship that strengthens what could have turned out to be an overly dramatic, throwaway scene.
And don’t even get me started on later in the game, when Jade is finally reunited with Pey’j. That is a Memory Card moment unto itself and just as emotionally stirring as this one.
Video games have come a long way from twenty years ago, when story was almost non-existent and gameplay involved not much more than hitting a few buttons. Now, video games tell beautiful stories and, as with Beyond Good & Evil, you are able to instantly fall in love with the characters and become completely emotionally invested in their actions on-screen. It really takes the medium to a whole new level and results in some truly unforgettable (and surprisingly heart-wrenching) moments.
If you have not played Beyond Good & Evil, I recommend (almost to the point of demanding) you find a copy and play it through. It really is a modern masterpiece, filled with a stellar story and ridiculously memorable characters (sorry, I just can’t say it enough).
The moment when Pey’j is kidnapped is not only sad, but also a brilliant example of what kind of emotions can be drawn out of a video game. It is because of this that it easily ranks it as one of the greatest video game moments of all time.
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